Today was our long awaited excursion to Mănăstirea Hâncu, one of the largest monasteries in Moldova, located about 40km outside of the capital. This was my first trip into the countryside and I found the rolling hills and endless forest very beautiful. Despite the heat of 20 people in an old minibus the journey was very pleasant and I enjoyed every minute. We arrived and the girls donned their headscarves while the boys removed baseball caps and we approached the monastery. Hâncu is home to at least twenty nuns and consists of a number of beautifully kept yellow buildings in the traditional Greek Orthodox style. The buildings are surrounded by the most vibrant and colourful selection of flowers that I’ve seen here and while we were there the ongoing nature of the upkeep of the land by the nuns was evident. The main church building is currently undergoing renovation and its access by some rickety planks of wood was a little challenging for some of our group. However, when it is finished it will be stunning. The nuns were also working in the grounds with their home produced vegetables preserving them in jars for the winter ahead. This is very common practice for all Moldovan households, just the scale of the operation here was much larger. The nuns also have a considerable amount of farmland where they produce all of their food. the monastery is entirely self-sufficient. We then walked to an area where a natural spring water flowed, which is known for its holy properties. The group seemed to relish drinking and bathing their hands and faces in the ice cold water. We enjoyed a picnic lunch nearby before making the journey back to the centre.
Throughout the trip I was, again, pleasantly surprised by the behaviour of our group. I suspect it’s a lot to do with the cultural importance of religion and monasteries but everyone was very quiet and respectful when moving throughout the grounds. One of the young male clients, who has limited verbal communication methods, understood that he needed to reduce the volume of his speech and swapped to using more hand gestures to express his wishes.
A most pleasant day, if a little tiring. Just uploading some of the photos of the incredible buildings at the monastery. It really was something so very different to I have ever seen before and a definite privilege to get to go there as part of my placement.
Oh, and I’ve discovered the most delicious Moldovan chocolates. The most famous chocolatier here is ‘Bucuria’ and a particular chocolate, ‘Favorit Plus’ is definitely a new addiction. It is a dark chocolate shell surrounding a milk chocolate/praline type filling and a whole but in the centre. This might thwart my plans to come home with a much lighter rucksack that I travelled here with!